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mum of thirty million of dollars prescribed in the report of the committee, and there should come a hurricane upon us--or, thai by some act of God, our canals or works of public improvement should be destroyed. Will you, asks the gentleman, for want of funds, let them lie in their ruins? I answer, no; tax the people. Go on in advance, and then the people will look into the matter and see, when they find themselves taxed, how their money is expended. And this view, I should suppose, would well fall in with the idea of the gentleman from Beaver, (Mr. Agnew) who says that the people are jealous about their money. "It is proper that they should be so.
Mr. HAYHURST, of Columbia, asked leave to say a word in explana
He had, it is true, put the case as represented by the gentleman from Lancaster; but he (Mr. H.) had also said that the length of time which must elapse before the requisire money could be expended for the reconstruction or repair of the works, would in itself be ruinous to the commonwealth.
Mr. HIESTER resumed. The gentleman from Northampton (Mr. Porter) has further asked me, will
you cut short the public improveinents of the state, now that you have got them in your own part of the country? I answer him emphati
. cally, no. When I was last on the floor, I attempted to show to the convention, that you would have the sum of ten millions of dollars, or thereabouts, before you got up to the maximum prescribed in this report. In the mean time, your tolls are accumulating, and they may be appropriated to your public works; and if these things should not be enough, I say tax the people directly, and the people will then look into the matter themselves.
We have been told by several gentlemen that the legislature never will run in advance of the people in this particular. What does our own experience teach us? Look at the bill which passed the legislature last year! Was not that in advance of the people? The executive of this commonwealth staked his popularity upon the step, and took the responsibility of vetoing that bill; and, if I am not greatly mistaken in my judgment, this is the proudest feather in his cap, and will make him more popular when he again comes before the people, than any thing he has ever done in the whole course of his official career.
What, then, does the passage of such a bill indicate? Does it noi sur. nish practical demonstration-notwithstanding the opinions expressed or enteriained to the contrary in this body-tiat the legislature will run in advance of the people, and that they have done so ?
I know that it is a very popular thing in this commonwealth of Pennsylvania, distinguished as she is for her indomitable spirit of enterprise, 10 legislate on these works of internal improvement, so long as it can be done without a resort to direct taxation. But let the matter be brought down to direct laxation, where those who receive no benefit from these works will have to pay for them, and I apprehend we shall find a very different state of things existing.
I have explained the views by which I shall be governed in my vote on this question, and I do not know that it is requisite for me to add any thing further.
Mr. FORWARD, of Allegheny, rose and said : I should like to ask the gentleman from Lancaster, (Mr. Hiester) whether he pretends to foresee what will be the future condition of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania in fifty years, in twenty-five years, or even in ten years from the present time? Will he tell us, will he presume to tell us, what the resources of this great commonwealth will be fifty years, or twenty-five years, or even ten years hence? Let himn apply his arithmetic now, if he can, and give us the result of his computation.
Mr. President, the gentleman will not presume to venture on such a step. Will he tell us what the wants of the people are to be in fifty years, or in twenty-five years hence? Why, ke does not pretend to any definite knowledge, on this matter-none at all. Does he intend to say, that the debt of a commonwealth should bear no relation to its resources ! Will he say that? Does he intend to say that the debt of a commonwealth should have no relation to the wants of the people, and 10 their ability to pay it? Will he say that? No, sir, he will not venture on any such position. He knows litule, very little of the future resources of this commonwealth that may be developed; he knows little, very little, of the future wants of the people, or of the prospective profits that may arise on the investment of capital. And yet, for that posterity which alone can know these things, he would lay down a role in the dark, without pointing to any one definite calculation, by which the people should be governed and regulated in the use of their own money, and the apprehension of their own wants.
Such is the liberal and enlightened policy of the gentleman of Lancaster! Sir, is it not enough simply to state the matter as it is, in order to explode the whole scheme here presented to our consideration ? Will the gentleman tell us what will be the nett profits upon our own existing improvements ten years hence? I ask for knowledge, for I am in the dark. There is no forecast, there is no human vision which can reach the condition of this commonwealth and the amount of its revenue, at a distance of ten years, of five years, or even of three years, from this moment. And yet the gentleman to say just what amount of public debt may be incurred: he is ready to say just what extent of responsibility may be borne or assumed by a people whose wealth has been doubled in the space of twenty years, and whose wealth may be trebled in the game period of time.
Is it unsafe to leave to those who are to pay the debt, a measure of the responsibility? The proposition before us amounts to this and nothing less than this. Our posterity shall not incur a debt beyond the sum of thirty millions of dollars, lest it may burthen, whom? Not us, but themselves. Are you afraid to trust them? Do you suppose that they will not have equal intelligence with yourselves, equal patriotism, equal knowl. edge of their own wants and their own interests ?
What is meant by this debt? Suppose it sluould appear that a debt of forty millions inight be incurred with entire safety to the people, and that the nett revenues to be derived from the expenditures would do more than pay the interest? Suppose, I asy, that this should appear to our posterity. The gentleman from Lancaster kindly informs them that such investments would be unsafe.
But what, I again ask, what is meant by the debt of this common wealth? It is a capital in business! Has it been cast into the sea? No. Is it fruitless ? No. It is seed sown which will bring forth its fruit in abundance, and even now the sickle is about being put to the harvest. Does any man entertain a doubt as to the large revenues to be derived from the investments of the commonwealth? Is not the experience of the country a sufficient guide to this fact ? Certainly, it is so. May we not reasonably calculate that the revenue arising from the public works of Pennsylvania will, sooner or later,—and probably, very soon-pay all the interest of your debt, so that your twenty-five millions of dollars will, in fact, be no weight upon you? It is a weight permanently neutralized, while the revenues from your public works are increasing largely year after year.
What is the experience of the state of New York. What is the experiance of other states of the Union? Does not the gentleman from Lancaster believe that if our public works were put up, bidders would be found to take them at twenty-five per cent advance and thank you, too, for the bargain? What was the value of the land west of the mountains before the canal and rail road were constructed ? It was worth one-hall or one-third as much as it is now worth.
The western farmers give one dollar a barrel on the flour brought down to market by these improvements.
Mr. Hiester, asked leave to call the attention of the gentleman from Allegheny, (Mr. Forward) to the fact, that the argument which he, (Mr. F.) was now applying, was the very same argument which he, (Mr. H.) had himself brought forward ; that was to say, that the advantage derived from these works was to the western farmers, and not to the people of Lancaster county; although he had expressly disclaimed being governed by that principle in the course he was adopting here.
Mr. Forward resumed.
For my own part, I disclaim all sectional views. They form no pari of my principle of action in this body. I am not complaining of the argument of the gentleman from Lancaster; I am simply stating a fact.
Who can measure the augmentation in the value of the freehold property of the commonwealth, apart from the revenue of these public works, but resulting from the construction of them? In many parts, the value of the freehold is already nearly doubled-I may say, trebled—and this result is clearly to be traced to these works of improvement The western far. mer, as I was about observing, when interrupted by the gentleman from Lancaster-gains one dollar a barrel on flour brought down on them to market. And suppose that he should have two hundred barrels of flour to sell per annum, there would be the sum of two hundred dollars a year added to his revenue, by means of these commercial high-ways, which connect him with other parts of the state. And is this nothing? Are all considerations of this character to be thrown out of view? Is the mineral wealth, are the countless and inexhaustible resources of your commonwealth of every kind, are they, I ask, to have no value?
May we not say, without stepping beyond the bound of a reasonable calculation, that in the space of thirty years hence, the solid wealth of Pennsylvania will amount to twenty-five, or thirty, or fifty millions of dollars greater than it is now? What then, is your debt?
To the amendment which he has proposed, the gentleman from Lancaster should make an addition and say, that until the wealth and resources of the state of Pennsylvania shall exceed a certain amount, the debt to be incurred shall not exceed the sum of thirty millions of dollars. He ought to graduate the debt, as a private man graduates his debt, to the means of payment, whatever they may be. Why has he not observed this rule ? Would a man put the same restriction on such an individual as Stephen Girard, as he would put upon myself, or upon you, Mr. President? The debt must be graduated according to the means of payment.
And when the state of Pennsylvania is five times as wealthy as she is at the present time, why should not the debt be placed at one hundred millions of dollars ? May not our posterity with five times our wealth, bear a debt of one hundred millions of dollars, as well as we with our present resources can bear a debt of thirty millions ?
Here you have a proposition not to graduate the debt to the means or the probable revenue of the state, but to fix a maximum beforehand in the dark, irrespective of future events-irrespective of future resources-irrespective of future revenue.
Sir, I trust that this convention will not give its sanction to any such provision. I trust that we shall leave those who are to live after us to exercise their own discretion. No principle, no organic rule is involved in this question.
Let those who think they have the means to place this provision in the constitution, take upon themselves the responsibility of it. For myself, I will have no part nor lot in it.
Mr. SteregERE, of Montgomery, said: It seems to me that the gentlemen who have opposed the proposition now before the convention have placed it in a false point of view. That argument, so far as it has gone, appears to have been directed to the point, whether the system of internal improvements in the state of Pennsylvania would not be entirely stopped by the insertion of such a provision in our constitution.
Now, does not every gentleman who hears me, know that such is not the object of this section, and that, if agreed to, it will not have the effect to postpone er retard the progress of our public works? It is proposed to introduce this amendmentinto the constitution, for the purpose of guarding the people against being made liable for an immense state debt. It will be a security against improvident systeins and schemes of internal improvement.
The best protection to be afforded by it will be, that the representatives of the people will be restrained—that they will be kept in checkand that such improvements as are to be made will be paid for immediately. The people will then begin to consider whether it is proper that their money should be expended in such and such schemes.
Look at the thousand wild schemes which have been proposed in this commonwealth! Look at the Gettysburg rail road. After the sum of two hundred thousand dollars has been expended upon it, it has been agreed by all parties to be unworthy of further aid from the legislature, and it will probably be abandoned, for a time at all events.
So far as this proposition can be viewed as having any reference to improvements of this state hereafter to be made, I can not see that it will have any
effect upon them.
Whenever the construction of any work of internal improvements becomes a matter of importance, the people of Pennsylvania have spirit and energy enough to see that it is constructed and to pay taxes for it.
If it is not of such importance, is it proper that the people should be taxed and that their property should be mortgaged for the payment of a debt incurred in a work which may be unproductive to the people at large! We have been told a thousand times over that we were the keystone stale of the Union; we have been fond of the appellation, and our pride has been ministered to by it.
According to some of the arguments which have been made use of here, it would rather appear that instead of being entitled to hold the proud position in the political arch which this designation implies, we are in the condition of paupers having no means of our own to help on our own internal improvements, but being compelled to ask aid from other states. But if it be true that our resources are to increase in so great a ratio as some gentlemen suppose, what difficulty can there be in applying them to purposes of internal improvement.
In addition to this, I have no doubl, as I said before, that the people of Pennsylvania will at all times be willing to be taxed, in order to carry on any proper system of internal improvements ;-I mean any system, not having its basis in speculation, of doubtful utility and profit, but & system holding out solid and substantial prospects of asefulness, and of fair returns for capital invested. From such a case I believe that the people will never withhold their countenance and support.
What is the proposition contained in the report of the committee ? It is that our state debt shall never exceed the sum of thirty millions of dollars. It is to be borne in mind that this is a very large liinit to which to allow our state debt to be extended. This, if I am correctly informed, is larger than the debt of the state of New York, or than that of any other state in the Union. And is it not proper for us to reduce that debt, so that we may have five, or ten, or fifteen millions at our command 10 go upon in case of any sudden emergency; as, for example, such as that which has been alluded to by the gentleinan from Columbia, and other cases of that kind ?
Before the internal improvement system of this commonwealth was commenced by the legislature, the people had paid more than twenty millions of dollars for iinprovements in the shape of private companies, althongh we were often taunted with being beinind the spirit of the age. If gentlemen will turn to the acts of assembly on this subject, they will find what I say to be correct. It is obvious, therefore, that the public spirit of our people is adequate to carry on a system of internal improve ment by means of private companies, when it is important to the people at large, as the system carried on by the legislature has been. Gende. . men say that this proposition, if adopted, will have the effect of committing these matters into the hands of private companies. Why, sir, what is there in that argument? Look back only a few years, and you will find that this is the principle which has been acted upon to a great extent in this commonwealth. Are not the Leligh navigation com. pany, the Scuylkilll canal companies, and the Union canal company. private corporations ? and none are more important than they. Not long since, a company was authorized to make a rail-road from Lancastor